Reported by The Edventurist, Chester Goad
In what was considered by most to be an unexpected move by US lawmakers, the House of Representatives passed sweeping disability-related legislation believed by many to be the most significant contribution to students with disabilities in U.S. history. The legislation referred to as H.R. 1975 was met with little opposition in the House and is expected to easily garner the two-thirds vote necessary to avoid any possible opposition.
H.R. 1975 will require full and unencumbered funding of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) finally authorizing and ensuring financial resources be funneled to states for what had previously been referred to as the great “unfunded” mandate and takes protections of students further with a five pronged approach that will ultimately affect the U.S. educational system from Birth through postsecondary.
The five points of the bill include:
1. Full funding of the original mandate, any reauthorization, and all components of the new legislation.
2. A specific focus on learning disabilities, (dyslexia in particular), requiring early screening, training for brain-based, multi-sensory, scientific classroom methodologies, and continued interventions for students throughout graduation and including transition.
3. Improved and enhanced preparation for the transition to college for bright students with learning disabilities.
4. Accessibility requirement deadlines for emerging technology used in any educational settings from elementary to postsecondary. This portion of the bill specifically targets resolving discrimination on the basis of use of any technology deemed inaccessible to individuals with disabilities and will force corporations who wish to do business within the education field to create accessible technology.
5. A much-needed salary boost for professionals on the front lines of special education or disabilities. Special educators will receive additional stipends based on years of experience for their commitment to the field of special education. This measure was added to address special education teacher turnover, and the current shortage of professionals in the field.
Coincidentally, the bill number (1975) for H.R. 1975 stands as a stark reminder of the date the initial IDEA mandate was approved by congress and of the 38 years that have since passed without funding leaving states and school systems with the financial burden. Though it has been reauthorized several times, no congress has ever been bold enough to mandate that the law be fully funded.
Of course if you are reading this and you have made it to this point, you are probably wondering if this is real. Happy April Fool’s Day! We could only hope for so much! (For all my K-12 SPED peeps and anyone involved in educating students with disabilities.) At least maybe this will encourage discussion on these important issues! Don’t forget to wear blue tomorrow for International Autism Awareness Day! Tweet it, Post it, Pin it!
(Chester Goad is founder of The Edventurist blog, an adult living with ADD, a university administrator, writer, speaker, and disability advocate, who is committed to making life better and more fun for people with attention deficit and dyslexia. He is also a prankster on April 1st.)